It’s almost that time of the year again, and here’s this year’s Olukai “Aloha” award ukulele for the Ho’olaule’a in Maui this coming May. I’ve added a tribal gecko laser cut to the back of the instrument. Accents are India Rosewood binding, rope style purfling, and Mango for heal graft and back of peg head. This koa is from the island of Maui, making it just a little more special for this occasion. It’s a full volume tenor and strung log “G”. Nice!
You know, sometimes it pays to try something different. This tenor uke is made from Carob wood. I’ve never heard of this wood and have never used this wood before and I don’t expect that when my present stock is gone that I will ever use it again. I was suprised at the warm tone of this wood. It is a non-endangered species harvested here in sunny San Diego. The pink/red tones of this wood do not fade with time but increase in intensity as the wood oxidizes. The neck is made from Bass Wood (light and stable–of course with carbon fiber reinforcement) and I thought it matched the sap wood of the Carob pretty well. All of the wood accents are figured African Bubinga including the finger board. My arched finger board is a little narrower in order to accommodate a smaller hand. I used red heart abalone purfling to accent the pink of the wood and added red paua abalone plumeria flowers to the sound board–definitely a chick ukulele.
One of my latest projects required Peony Flower inlays. I”m not a big fan of sound board inlays because it limits my ability to custom thickness the soundboard ,but who am I to say no–no rules in ukulele. So this is my interpretation of the clients requests. I can’t say that my photography is up to snuff on this project, but I think that you will get the idea. This “Ku’u Ipo” concert ukulele features a more vintage shape with rounded lower bout and a 15 3/4″ scale. The instrument is made from moderately curly Koa with Brazilian Lacewood accents and Peghead Tuners. The Peony flowers are white and gold mother-of-pearl with petals of green and paua abalone.
This is the first out-of-the-mold jumbo tenor ukulele. This shape is a conglomerate of patterns from my original Hula Hips tenor to a more classic jumbo guitar shape. It is not as thick as my current instruments but is 10 inches in the lower bout. The volume may be about the same but the active sound board is definitely increased. I have gone back to a more classic look as well with a center sound hole but I’ve kept the side, concert sound hole. This instrument is constructed of Oregon Bastogne Black Walnut with a Sitka Spruce sound board. I “X” braced the sound board. Rope style purfling and vintage back strip to accent the look. The neck is matching Oregon Black Walnut. I used Aquila low ‘G” strings and was mightly impressed with the volume and depth of sound. This will be my slack key go-to ukulele. Asante you all.
Another curly, spalted maple uke but with a Sitka sound board. I used a vintage style back strip and rope purfling to accent. The client also wanted the asymmetric sound hole with side concert sound hole. Additionally, he selected a figured Bubinga and radiused finger board. I put LMI’s “evo” gold frets on the fingerboard and Gotoh’s newest tuners in gold to match on the head stock. The frets are solid and gold colored and do not contain any nickel. The binding is matching figured Bubinga and the accents are Queensland eucalyptus burl. I also matched a curly Maple neck to the body. This is one of the smoothest and most comfortable necks–fretboard combinations that I have made to date and I am most excited about this effort. To be honest, my photography sucks,although I’m getting better–the true color of the abalone inlay on the headstock does not come through on the photo–I think that you might get the idea though. This is the last of this wood that I have on stock, but I have just made new wood contacts in Oregon and have put the look-out for more. The tone is bright and articulate. Ouch!
Here’s a new Maple Tenor: center sound hole, and side concert sound hole. Really nice Maple back and sides with a Sitka top. I did finger board and bridge in a new wood from Mexico called Guanadillo Negro–probably Granadillo but more brown in color. How knows? It’s really hard and I liked the color! Accents are in Spalted Maple and purfling is split herringbone with dark curly Koa binding. It will have bone nut and saddle and strings per customer request. I especially like the matching pick guard in Maple. Oh, did I mention, this instrument is available!
So with multiple moves and all I haven’t been get’in with it lately. Still been busy though. Here’s a new custom instrument for a client that wanted only California woods. The back is Monterey cypress, the sides are Sycamore, the sound board and neck are CA old growth redwood and the binding is Eucalyptus. Body shape is vintage/Kahiko style with double puka. Oh, the fret board and bridge are CA Carob wood. This instrument was so light that I think the K&K passive pickup weighed as much.
I get this question about what wood is my most favorite. Answer: Don’t have one. Every wood and every wood combination provides different flavor to the instrument and it is difficult to get into the ears and eyes of every individual. Yes, I do like Koa–It is so pretty and varied but so expensive and is it really the best wood for this instrument??? Hmmmm!
I do like some alternatives though and my favorite Koa alternative is Oregon Black Walnut. This wood approximates the same density of most Koas and it is definitely an attractive alternative. Most of the instruments that I have made out of this wood have been pleasing to the ear and the eye. So hear you go!
OMG! My client wanted an alternative sound hole arrangement for his new 6 string ukulele. Who am I to say no! Not only did he request three sound holes for his left handed uke, but he wanted all the possible wood combinations he could get in one instrument (black walnut neck, koa sound board, curly walnut sides, curly maple back, Macassar ebony fret board and bridge complimented with curly koa binding and paua abalone purfling top and back, plus custom artwork–WHOA!). Who am I to say no! DON’T FORGET: NO RULES IN UKULELE. So whether or not this appeals to you it actually turned out to be interesting, attractive and very pleasing to the ear. So have at it!
Oh, I almost forgot, this is pro surfer Guy Takayama’s oversized tenor design. It worked really well with this instrument.
It’s almost time for San Diego Ukulele Festival 2012. Last year’s first ever event in SD was a big success. This year the event will be moved downtown to one of the Piers. Great location and a great line-up. Check it out at: www.sandiegoukulelefestival.com. Here’s a couple of pics from our booth last year. Of course, we will be there again –ohana you know!